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can tell you. Have you any intimate friend at
Zurich, whom you could trust to help you, in
playing a trick on Mrs. Lecount?"

"What sort of help do you mean?" asked Mr.
Noel Vanstone.

"Suppose," said the captain, "you were to
send a letter addressed to Mrs. Lecount, at
Aldborough, enclosed in another letter addressed to
one of your friends abroad? And suppose you
were to instruct that friend to help a harmless
practical joke by posting Mrs. Lecount's letter
at Zurich? Do you know any one who could be
trusted to do that?"

"I know two people who could be trusted!"
cried Mr. Noel Vanstone. " Both ladiesboth
spinstersboth bitter enemies of Lecount's. But
what is your drift, Mr. Bygrave? Though I am
not usually wanting in penetration, I don't
altogether see your drift."

"You shall see it directly, Mr. Vanstone."

With these words he rose, withdrew to his
desk in the corner of the room, and wrote a few
lines on a sheet of note-paper. After first
reading them carefully to himself, he beckoned to
Mr. Noel Vanstone to come and read them

"A few minutes since," said the captain,
pointing complacently to his own composition
with the feather end of his pen, "I had the
honour of suggesting a pious fraud on Mrs.
Lecount. There it is!"

He resigned his chair at the writing-table to
his visitor. Mr. Noel Vanstone sat down, and
read these lines:

"My dear Madam,—Since I last wrote, I
deeply regret to inform you that your brother
has suffered a relapse. The symptoms are so
serious, that it is my painful duty to summon
you instantly to his bedside. I am making every
effort to resist the renewed progress of the
malady; and I have not yet lost all hope of
success. But I cannot reconcile it to my
conscience to leave you in ignorance of a serious
change in my patient for the worse, which may
be attended by fatal results. With much
sympathy, I remain, &c. &c. &c."

Captain Wragge waited with some anxiety for
the effect which this letter might produce. Mean,
selfish, and cowardly as he was, even Noel
Vanstone might feel some compunction at
practising such a deception as was here suggested,
on a woman who stood towards him in the position
of Mrs. Lecount. She had served him
faithfully, however interested her motives might
beshe had lived, since he was a lad, in the full
possession of his father's confidenceshe was
living now under the protection of his own roof.
Could he fail to remember this; and,
remembering it, could he lend his aid without hesitation
to the scheme which was now proposed to him?
Captain Wragge unconsciously retained belief
enough in human nature to doubt it. To his
surprise, and, it must be added, to his relief also,
his apprehensions proved to be perfectly groundless.
The only emotions aroused in Mr. Noel
Vanstone's mind by a perusal of the letter, were
a hearty admiration of his friend's idea, and a
vain-glorious anxiety to claim the credit to
himself to being the person who carried it out.
Examples may be found every day of a fool who
is no coward; examples may be found occasionally
of a fool who is not cunningbut it may
reasonably be doubted whether there is a
producible instance anywhere of a fool who is not

"Perfect!" cried Mr. Noel Vanstone, clapping
his hands. " Mr. Bygrave, you are as good as
Figaro in the French comedy. Talking of
French, there is one serious mistake in this
clever letter of yoursit is written in the
wrong language. When the doctor writes to
Lecount, he writes in French. Perhaps you
meant me to translate it? You can't manage
without my help, can you? I write French
as fluently as I write English. Just look at
me! I'll translate it, while I sit here, in two
strokes of the pen."

He completed the translation almost as rapidly
as Captain Wragge had produced the original.
"Wait a minute!" he cried, in high critical
triumph at discovering another defect in the
composition of his ingenious friend. " The
doctor always dates his letters. Here is no date
to yours."

"I leave the date to you," said the captain,
with a sardonic smile. "You have discovered
the fault, my dear sirpray correct it!"

Mr. Noel Vanstone mentally looked into the
great gulf which separates the faculty that
can discover a defect, from the faculty that
can apply a remedyand, following the
example of many a wiser man, declined to cross
over it.

"I couldn't think of taking the liberty," he
said, politely. "Perhaps you had a motive for
leaving the date out?"

"Perhaps I had," replied Captain Wragge,
with his easiest good humour. " The date must
depend on the time a letter takes to get to Zurich.
I have had no experience on that pointyou
must have had plenty of experience in your
father's time. Give me the benefit of your
information; and we will add the date before you
leave the writing-table."

Mr. Noel Vanstone's experience was, as Captain
Wragge had anticipated, perfectly competent
to settle the question of time. The railway
resources of the Continent (in the year eighteen
hundred and forty-seven) were but scanty; and
a letter sent, at that period, from England to
Zurich, and from Zurich back again to England,
occupied ten days in making the double journey
by post.

"Date the letter, in French, five days on from
to-morrow," said the captain, when he had got
his information. "Very good. The next thing
is to let me have the doctor's note, as soon as
you can. I may be obliged to practise some
hours before I can copy your translation in
an exact imitation of the doctor's handwriting.